Georgia is holding its first population census since 2002, which is expected to show a significant population decrease as a result of emigration, low fertility and civil war.
The National Statistics Office of Georgia, GeoStat, will carry out the survey of citizens and foreign residents, as well as agricultural activity, from November 5-19 across the country, with the exception of the two breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
“The operation, with its scale and content, represents a unique source of data and information on the social, economic and demographic state of the population,” said Meri Duashvili, GeoStat’s executive director. “Updated data on the size of the population, its sex and age structure, employment, education, health, livelihood and household conditions will indicate what the best policies should be implemented.”
In September, 382 villages in remote mountainous areas were already surveyed because of poor weather conditions expected in November.
A decreasing population
A preliminary digital mapping, conducted between July 2013 and April 2014, surveyed buildings and households.
“We recorded approximately 1,200,000 households which already signals a population decrease,” explains Paata Shavishvili, head of the population census and demographic division at GeoStat. “The results confirms a trend seen in the the 2002 census.”
In 2002, 4,371,535 were recorded as living in Georgia, about 20% less than in 1989 when the then Soviet Republic of Georgia registered 5,443,359 citizens. The 13 years in between saw Georgia batting with the aftermath of the USSR collapse – high emigration rate, low fertility and two civil wars with Abkhazia and South Ossetia which resulted in the loss of 20% of its territory.
The questionnaire will contain for the first time gender-disaggregated data aimed at “shaping policy decisions and encouraging women’s participation in public life,” said Martina Quick, Swedish ambassador to Georgian and Armenia at the census presentation on November 4. The government of Sweden supported GeoStat with $1.1mn. Other donors included the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Bank, both of which provided technical assistance to GeoStat.
Citizens, crops and cattle
The census will not be limited to Georgian residents and citizens, but simultaneously cover the agricultural survey to generate information about households’ agricultural activities.
Agriculture has always been a key sector for Georgia’s economy, but the break-up of the Soviet Union sent the sector into free fall. Despite employing over 51.3% of the workforce, production has plummeted – from 45% of the GDP in early 1990s to 10.6% as of December 2013. Agriculture is mainly carried out at subsistence level with farms’ average size estimated to be less than a hectare.
Georgia signed the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with the EU last June. Now exact data on the structure of utilized agricultural land in the ownership of households, livestock and poultry units, and agricultural machinery are essential to direct investment and development programmes.
“The last agriculture census was conducted in 2004 and is largely outdated,” explains Juan Echanove, Agriculture and Rural Development attache at the EU Delegation to Georgia. “Undertaking a new census is a matter of high priority, specially taking into account the priority given to the sector development by the current administration.”
ENPARD, the €52mn EU-funded programme to support agriculture in Georgia, specifically backs the development of agricultural statistics according to standards set by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
“If, by May 2015, the government of Georgia has demonstrated such improvements, the EU will release €1mn to Georgia as budget support,” adds Echanove.
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